Pearls and Irritations is influential and widely read, with outstanding authors writing about important current events. There are no sponsors and subscriptions are free – our editors and authors are independent, dedicated and generous. Please encourage your friends to subscribe. We have over 5,500 subscribers and would welcome more.

Readers may be interested in direct links to categories and our two popular series, Making housing affordable and Freedom opportunity and security. See links above in the black ribbon under our header image.

MICHAEL KEATING. Why Blame Neo-Liberal Economics: A Response

My previous article on Why Blame Neo-Liberal Economics, which argued that neo-liberal economics was not a main cause of increasing inequality, drew an unusually large and mostly critical response. While it is not feasible to respond to all the detailed points that my many critics have raised, in this response I propose to focus on two big issues: (i) what is neo-liberal economics and how does it influence policy outcomes, and (ii) why has inequality increased since the 1980s. I will also briefly discuss the policy implications that flow from my analysis. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Taxation | 19 Comments

LUKE FRASER. Road reform, bureaucracy-style: no economic benefit, higher prices for users – and an easier ride for already-unaccountable agencies

From time to time our newspapers pen articles about road reform.  They raise the need for spending to be more efficient and less guided by the electoral pork-barrel and for more value to be visible to motorists.  The call for efficiency is particularly understandable as tax revenue become scarcer: the Westconnex motorway project in Sydney would almost fund the latest Gonski education reform package.  Westconnex would also fund almost half of Australia’s latest submarines purchase[i].   Continue reading

Posted in Infrastructure, Transport | 4 Comments

PETER DAY. Show me the money!

Cricket’s two most powerful bodies have reached an impasse over pay. The enmity between the two runs deep – blinking first ain’t an option. Thus, all our elite players (230+) are currently unemployed. HOWZAT for a dilemma? Continue reading

Posted in Sport | 3 Comments

JOHN TULLOH. Fear, paranoia and anxiety in Turkey one year on from the failed coup attempt.

       As one opposition MP noted: ‘Turkey has been wrapped in a cloak of fear and anxiety’. Paranoia as well, he might have added.   Continue reading

Posted in Foreign Affairs | 1 Comment

IAN McAULEY. Australia’s economy: she’ll be right mate – or will she?

A few good economic indicators and Coalition disunity are distracting us from fundamental structural weaknesses in the Australian economy. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Politics | 3 Comments

DAVID MACILWAIN. Truth buried is truth denied.

Seymour Hersh’s latest revelations, that US intelligence knew Assad didn’t use chemical weapons in Khan Shaikoun in April are earth-shattering, and of crucial relevance to Australia and our military commitment in the war on Syria. We cannot allow them to be buried. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security | 6 Comments

KELLIE TRANTER. Different country, different rules

Leaked reports of clandestine operations by our elite special forces in Afghanistan have given us some insight of the way a protracted war affects all involved – soldiers and civilians. By keeping us in blissful ignorance of the cold hard facts about deaths and injuries in our  military campaigns our government avoids the soul searching  we should be going through.
Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security | 1 Comment

TONY KEVIN. Australia has been enlisted by Trump’s Washington opponents

Australia has now been enlisted in Trump’s war against the Washington elite. There are costs and risks to Australia in this development.   Continue reading

Posted in Foreign Affairs | 2 Comments

ANDREW FARRAN. Apparently all not well among our elite Forces

It appears that all is not well between and among our elite military forces, and between them and their hierarchies above, possibly right up to the government itself. After all it is the government that has committed these elites into battle situations leading to allegations of unlawful killings of civilians, in this case in Afghanistan (vide: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-11/killings-of-unarmed-afghans-by-australian-special-forces/8466642) Continue reading

Posted in ANZAC, Defence/Security | 2 Comments

STEPHEN CORBETT After the Grenfell fire in London

The fire in the Grenfell tower in London has heightened awareness of fire risks in tall buildings in Australia. The pressure to increase height limits and urban density, and to create sustainable and efficient buildings, must not lose sight of the fundamental engineering and design requirements for fire safety, and of the need for robust regulatory oversight of these standards. Continue reading

Posted in Vested Interests | 1 Comment

GEORGE YANCY AND NOAM CHOMSKY (INTERVIEW). On Trump and the State of the Union

Is Russian hacking really more significant than, for example, the Republican campaign to destroy the conditions for organized social existence, in defiance of the entire world? Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs, Politics | 2 Comments

JOHN MENADUE. The Catholic bishops don’t understand their responsibility and accountability. (Repost from 27 February 2017)

In any other walk of life or area of public administration, admission of criminal neglect would be a prelude to the tendering of resignations. The criminally negligent are not fit and proper persons to hold senior administrative responsibilities. Not so in the Catholic Church because it’s all someone else’s responsibility. Continue reading

Posted in Religion and Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

KEITH JOINER. Australia’s 13th Submarine: The Barracuda “F model”

In building our new submarines there is a choice between a fast process with comparatively fixed designs and a rolling design processwhich would be slower but would be more likely to match Australia’s evolving defence requirements and provide more continuity and retention of expertise. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security | 2 Comments

JOHN AUSTEN. Does Infrastructure Australia understand its ideas for public transport franchising?

A recent report by Infrastructure Australia recommends franchising state public transport services, with Commonwealth incentives for so doing. It claimed that this would realise around $16 bn of financial savings, which could be spent on infrastructure. The report assumed there to be inherent but undisclosed inefficiencies in state government services, without providing evidence of such inefficiencies. Continue reading

Posted in Infrastructure, Transport | Leave a comment

ALLAN PATIENCE. The failure of Australian conservatism.

Tony Abbott has announced his intention to stay in politics in order to protect and promote what he calls “liberal conservative values.” He claims his values are at the very heart of Liberal Party philosophy. Meanwhile Cory Bernardi seeks to trump this by asserting that his new party is the one true home of Australian conservatism. What this latest ideological imbroglio points to is the fact that the Australian Liberal Party has always been an unconsummated marriage between liberalism and conservatism. Perhaps Liberal Party supporters need reminding that nearly all unconsummated marriages end up in bitter divorce. Continue reading

Posted in Current affairs, Politics | 1 Comment

JOHN MENADUE. Health Ministers may be in office but health providers are in power. Think medical specialists fees! (Repost from 19 April 2017)

‘Perhaps [we could consider] a review of what Pierre Trudeau and his government (in Canada) did in 1984 when they took on a system not dissimilar to ours – uncontrolled fee for service – and legislated that doctors could charge what they liked BUT unless they adhered to the fee negotiated between the provincial government and the profession (on an annual basis) the doctor lost all access to a Medicare reimbursement. The system still works today in Canada and few doctors opt out of it. Now there is a thought and a significant game-changer.’ 
Continue reading

Posted in Health, Vested Interests | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

RAMESH THAKUR. Japan on the wrong side of nuclear weapons ban treaty

Many nations that previously championed their nuclear disarmament credentials have now been outed as part of the problem Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs | 1 Comment

MUNGO MACCALLUM. No holiday for Tony Abbott

Malcolm Turnbull was off in Hamburg, schmoozing his fellow leaders in the hope of getting something – anything – done about North Korea, terrorism, trade, Donald Trump – something – anything. Continue reading

Posted in Current affairs, Politics | 3 Comments

RICHARD BROINOWSKI. Matching Colonial Wars

The record of British colonial history proves that what occurred to Aboriginal Australian communities at the hands of white settlers and British military forces was not a unique event. The same thing occurred with as much inhumanity and ferocity in other parts of the Empire, notably in South Africa against the Khoi, the Xhosa and the Zulus. The difference is that the Xhosa and the Zulus, if not the Khoi, had a fierce warrior-like mentality and were able not only to defend themselves effectively, but frequently to invade white settler areas, torching their farms and killing their inhabitants. Hence eight very bloody frontier wars followed between 1779 and 1853. If Australians were more aware of the similarities,  denialist Australian academics like Keith Windshuttle would not be able to get away with his white-wash of Australian settler history as easily as they do. Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs | 3 Comments

FR. MICHAEL KELLY. Christianity isn’t the answer

Paul Kelly named what is the biggest untreated socially communicated disease in the Western world: narcissism (The Australian, 8/07/2017). He’s not alone of course and quotes several other commentators who believe the same thing, among them David Brooks. Continue reading

Posted in Religion and Faith | 2 Comments

IAN MCAULEY. Comrade Abbott – Comrade who?

It is understandable that members of the Parliamentary Liberal Party are furious with Tony Abbott. But they fail to realise that his behaviour is a manifestation – admittedly a stark one – of traits that are embedded in the Liberal Party.
Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

CHARLES LIVINGSTON. Victorian pokies “reforms” may impose big costs on population

The Victorian Government has announced that it will extend existing poker machine licences until 2042, freezing the total number of machines available in pubs and clubs at 27,342 (there are another 2,658 at Crown Casino). The Minister made much of this in her announcement, lauding this as a ‘harm minimisation’ measure. Yet these ‘reforms’ may impose significant opportunity costs on the Victorian population. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Health | 1 Comment

RAMESH THAKUR. Modi’s actions fail to live up to his words

Three years on, it’s hard for even the most ardent Indophile to remain optimistic about the nation’s future. Continue reading

Posted in Australia and Asia, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy | Comments Off on RAMESH THAKUR. Modi’s actions fail to live up to his words

ALICE FABBRI, LISA BERO AND RAY MOYNIHAN. Vested interests -Who’s paying for lunch? Here’s exactly how drug companies wine and dine our doctors

Now you can find out who’s wining and dining our doctors, nurses and pharmacists with publicly available data of drug company funded events. Continue reading

Posted in Health | 1 Comment

JOHN MENADUE. Making housing affordable. (Repost from Housing Series)

Pearls and Irritations recently posted a series of articles on the theme Making Housing Affordable. The series focuses on Australia’s housing affordability crisis. Most of the articles were posted just before the Federal Budget, but a few were posted afterwards, by way of a reflection on the relevant Budget reforms (or lack thereof). The date of publication of each article on Pearls and Irritations appears after the title. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

JUDITH WHITE. Risks of gallery expansion

The NSW Coalition government has allocated $244m towards a major new building at the state Art Gallery. But questions are being raised about its ongoing funding and its mission as a public institution. Continue reading

Posted in Arts | Comments Off on JUDITH WHITE. Risks of gallery expansion

MUNGO MacCALLUM. ‘The gentleman you describe.’

We can at least talk about it without pretending it isn’t really there.   Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 4 Comments

MACK WILLIAMS. North Korea ICBM threat to Australia.

The DPRK’s recent ICBM test raises some extremely serious concerns for Australia which will need to be carefully considered by the Australian Government before it rushes off into decision making on the run as has been the case in the past week of hyperventilation. Any attraction of the DPRK to include Australia as a target for its ICBM’s would derive more from US defence presence in Australia than from any factors inherently Australian.  Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs | 5 Comments

TONY KEVIN. Hamburg G20 : Much was achieved

Angela Merkel’s firm and statesmanlike chairmanship steered the Hamburg G20
to a content-rich, global economics and climate change-dominated leaders’ declaration https://www.g20.org/gipfeldokumente/G20-leaders-declaration.pdf.   Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs | Comments Off on TONY KEVIN. Hamburg G20 : Much was achieved

GEOFF MILLER. Kim Jong Un – Forcing the pace, or forging a peace?

Kim Jong Un’s continual provocation of the United States can probably be best explained as a considered strategy to bring about negotiations between the two.   Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Foreign Affairs | 1 Comment